07 November, 2016

II Kings 10:28-30—“… thou hast done well in executing that which was right in mine eyes …”

Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan. And the Lord said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which was right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart; thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel (II Kings 10:28-30).

This text is sometimes used to support the notion that the natural man, without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, is able to do “good” (contrary to the doctrine of total depravity).


Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 40, no. 10 (Feb 15, 1964), pp. 220-221]

What about Jehu? Does the text from II Kings, quoted above, prove that Jehu, under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Point II), received grace (common grace is, after all, grace) by which he ‘could do’ good?

This, after all, is the question. It is not the question whether Jehu was an able general, or whether he was zealous in the accomplishment of the task assigned to him. All this may readily be granted. Also today the natural man is often very able and ambitious. But the question is whether he did good in the moral, ethical sense of the word. That is a question of motive. And motive is a matter of the inner man, of the mind, of the will, of the heart.

The Christian Reformed Synod, in the Third Point makes a distinction between saving good and civil good. Let that be as it may, although I do not want to subscribe to the distinction. Any act of man is either good or evil, i.e., in the moral or ethical sense of the word.

Good is an act when it is motivated by the love of God and of men; evil an act when in its deepest root it is motivated by hatred of God and our fellow men. There is nothing else. There can be nothing else. Now, according to the Synod of Kalamazoo, 1924, the unregenerate man can do what is called civil good. Hence, the Synod maintains that a man that is not motivated by the love of God and of the neighbor, who, in fact, in his deepest heart is motivated by enmity against God and against the neighbor, can do good. You may call it natural or civil good, to me that makes no difference—it is not sin but good, in the moral and ethical sense of the word.

This I, and all Protestant Reformed people, deny.

To me, and to all of our people, an act of man is either good or it is sin.

But what, then, about Jehu?

Did not God Himself say that Jehu did well in executing that which was right in the sight of God?

Concerning this I make the following remarks:

1. Jehu was, according to Scripture, a wicked man. Before and after the statement that he had done well in executing that which the Lord had commanded him, we read that “from the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit the golden calves that were in Bethel and that were in Dan.” Is it possible, then, that he could do anything good in the moral, ethical sense of the word? The answer to this question is and must be negative.

2. It is evident that Jehu was a very able man. As a soldier and general, he was courageous and undaunted in battle. He was thorough in all his work.

3. It is very evident from the entire narrative that Jehu saw in the command of God to extinguish the house of Ahab a golden opportunity to further his own cause, namely, that he might occupy the throne of Israel. That was Jehu’s sole ambition. And that was also the motive for all that he did. His motive was not and could not be the love of God. O yes, he did well. Perhaps, we may say that he belonged to those men that are mentioned in Matthew 7: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works?” No doubt, they did all these things. Jehu did the same things; he also did wonderful works. But what did the Lord say to them? He answered: “I never knew you: Depart from me, ye that work in iniquity.”

4. Moreover, for the very thing which Jehu did so well he was punished. For thus we read in Hosea 1:4: “And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel, for yet a little while and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and I will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.” Indeed, Jehu did very well in destroying the house of Ahab, but in doing so he was not motivated by the fear of the Lord, but his own wicked ambition. Hence, in doing well he sinned.

Hence, the text does not sustain the doctrine of the third point that the natural man is able to do good, civil or otherwise.



Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)

[Source: The Rock Whence We Are Hewn (RFPA, 2015), pp. 425–26.]

First, synod discovered in Scripture three examples of men who were unregenerated and of whom Scripture declares that they did what was right in the sight of the Lord. One of these examples include Jehu, the general who became king of Israel.

The good Jehu did was to exterminate the entire house of Ahab, as God had commanded him. Scripture says that he did well in executing that commandment. At the same time we read that Jehu did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam and did not walk and took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord with all his heart (II Kings 10:29–30). His extermination of the house of Ahab is later reckoned as blood guiltiness that will be avenged on the house of Jehu (Hosea 1:4).

Did Jehu perform any moral or ethical good before the Lord by exterminating Ahab’s house? Did he perform moral or ethical good under an influence of the Holy Spirit? Was his sinful nature somewhat reformed or improved before he could begin exterminating Ahab’s house? The contrary is true. Jehu did not care about Jehovah and his service. That he did not depart from the ways and sins of Jeroboam makes this clear.

His motive for executing God’s command to exterminate Ahab’s house was radically different. Jehu was ambitious. Love of power and glory and a desire for distinction and superiority controlled him. The command of Jehovah to destroy the house of Ahab was the way to realize his ambition. The hope of the royal crown inspired him, and Jehu’s natural ability matched his ambition. Hence we need not be surprised that he did well in thoroughly and quickly executing the command of the Lord. But there was no positive ethical value in his command work. No matter how well he executed Jehovah’s word, his work was ethically sinful; it was rooted in self-love and aimed at his own glory and the realization of his ambitions. A special operation of the Holy Spirit in Jehu’s heart to restrain sin certainly was wholly unnecessary for that purpose, and Scripture does not speak of it even with a word.



Ronald Hanko & Ronald Cammenga

The argument is that Jehu, though he himself was a wicked man, was nevertheless able to do good by doing what God had commanded when he destroyed the whole family of wicked Ahab. It is very clear, however, that Jehu did not do this out of love for God, for he himself re-established the worship of the golden calves, which Jeroboam had originally set up to keep the people from the worship of God in Jerusalem (I Kings 12:26-30). Instead, he did what God commanded only for himself and to secure the kingdom for himself. The Bible teaches us that whatever is not done for the glory of God, even though it be what God commands, is neither obedience nor good in the sight of God (Matt. 22:37, 38; Matt. 23:25-28; Rom. 14:23; I Cor. 10:31).



Westminster Confession

Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God (16:7).



Heidelberg Catechism

Q. 8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
A. Indeed we are, except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

Q. 91. But what are good works?
A. Only those which proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the law of God, and to His glory; and not such as are founded on our imaginations or the institutions of men.



More to come! (DV)

NB: Check out also the online pamphlet, “The Curse-Reward of the Wicked Well-Doer” by Rev. Herman Hoeksema.

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